Serbia and Kosovo have agreed to normalize relations with one another through a European Union brokered dialogue. It is a milestone that will hopefully enhance stability in the region and clear a path for both countries to join the European Union.
The agreement hinged on how much autonomy Kosovo was willing to cede to Serb municipalities in the north, in return for Serbia's recognition of Kosovo's authority in the area. Under the agreement, municipal bodies in the Serb-majority north will retain autonomy in matters like health care and education. In return, the police and courts will apply the Kosovo central government's laws. The Serbian municipalities will be able to appoint a regional police chief.
Further, Kosovo has agreed not to deploy its security forces in the Serbian region for an unspecified number years, except in case of emergencies.
"I applaud the governments of Kosovo and Serbia for making the hard decisions that will move them closer to their goals of European integration."
Tensions have lingered between Serbian and Kosovo since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, nearly a decade after NATO bombs helped push out Serbian forces. For Kosovo's ethnic Albanian Muslim majority, independence was the culmination of a struggle for self-determination after a brutal ethnic civil war with Serbia. Kosovo is now recognized by more than 90 countries, including the United States. Serbia is among the countries that has not recognized Kosovo's independence.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry congratulated Kosovo and Serbia for reaching an agreement on the normalization of relations. This required compromise and political courage from both sides, said Mr. Kerry, and "I applaud the governments of Kosovo and Serbia for making the hard decisions that will move them closer to their goals of European integration.
I encourage both countries now to implement expeditiously and fully all dialogue agreements reached to date, so that all of those living in Kosovo and Serbia can continue to build a more peaceful and prosperous future."
The United States will remain deeply committed to seeing the people of Serbia, Kosovo, and the entire region realize their aspirations of integration into a Europe free, whole, and at peace.